Finally finished. It took almost 20 minutes to drive the combine harvester across the field. Two more rounds and the wheat is brought in. I am credited with $ 8,000 for the harvest. Country music is playing on the radio. The world seems fine.
It’s a shame it only exists on my screen – in the form of the Farming Simulator, a video game about running a farm. The goal? Cultivate the fields, invest the money earned in new equipment and expand the farm.
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The title is a so-called simulation game. Nowadays there is practically no job for which a simulation has not already been developed. Bus driver, train driver and pilot are the most frequently imitated professions, but there are also games for professionals such as deep-sea fisherman, wind turbine mechanic or sled dog driver. The better-known titles are extremely popular, the individual versions of the farming simulator – the game has been released since 2008 and is reissued almost annually – have so far sold more than 25 million times. The mobile version has been downloaded hundreds of millions of times.
Where does the success come from? Isn’t it completely crazy to imitate paid work on the couch in the evenings? Or is it, especially in times of Corona, the logical consequence when all the usual duties and activities become less with every tightening of the official guidelines? Normality as escapism?
The outside world is crazy enough as it is
The Farming Simulator does not provide any narrative or external motivation, the satisfying endless loop of toiling, investing and relaxing feels familiar. But it is more interesting for the reward center in the brain if the return on one’s own effort is already visible after a round of games in the evening and not only after you have waited a few decades and the savings plan finally yields a return.
During the corona pandemic, the appeal of simulation games increases. Because many of the external signals that otherwise certify success and correct decisions are no longer present. Here, on the other hand, the player receives constant feedback, the income is reinvested directly. The game doesn’t shy away from giving clear instructions on what to do next. While games primarily deliver an adrenaline rush in normal times, they now offer a pleasant level of reliability.
Sow and reap. My farm is a cozy vanishing point. The silos are full and there are all kinds of original harvesting machines in the sheds. Why should I have adventures in the usual video game sets, in space wars or death swamps, when the world outside the windows seems crazy enough in 2020? Why should I torture my retina with harsh flashes from laser guns in the evening when they are already tired after a day of zooming? Instead, I prefer to drive at walking pace over a field of rape. Transcendental boredom? Or an urgently needed moment to take a deep breath? The landscape on the monitor is green and yellow. The digital equivalent of a 500-horsepower tractor engine rumbles through the headphones. Monotony as the soundtrack of relaxation.
The original made of steel and sheet metal probably sounds the same. Right down to the lights on the dashboard, everything is modeled on real machines. In some cases, the tractor manufacturers even provide the development studio with the original construction plans. If you really mean it, take another 200 euros into your hand and invest it in the originally licensed farming simulator steering wheel including two pedals and a control panel with 38 buttons. This attention to detail is also found in the other simulations. For the train simulator, the developers photographed brick walls in a train station in order to make the train driver game as realistic as possible. Everything so that the games become a safe substitute for everyday life – without the risk of viruses. And also without any other dangers.